The Kokomo Tribune from Kokomo, Indiana on June 11, 1994 · Page 14
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The Kokomo Tribune from Kokomo, Indiana · Page 14

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Kokomo, Indiana
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Saturday, June 11, 1994
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Page 14
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Sports Saturday, June 11,1994 Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune B3 Questions being asked after Stanley's death It came as a shock to the open- wheeled racing world when three- time defending USAC Sprint champion Robbie Stanley was killed in a fiery wreck at Winchester Speedway on Thursday, May 26. The events surrounding the tragedy began when Stanley was involved in an accident on the high-speed, banked pavement track. Following the initial wreck, Stanley's car was struck again with the second impact exploding the fuel cell of the No. 69 Hoffman Brothers sprinter. Stanley was eventually extracted from the car and taken to a nearby hospital. Later that evening Stanley died and the cause of death was released as multiple trauma. Now I have never been to Winchester Speedway in person, but I have watched some sprint and midget car racing on ESPN's coverage of USAC events at the track. I have had plenty of scary moments in front of the television, watching cars fly around the high banks at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour. When cars get low in the corners, sparks fly at will when cars bottom out against the paved surface. Since I am not what you would call any type of expert behind the wheel of a sprint car, I decided to draw some information from three drivers familiar with the high banks of Winchester. Former USAC Sprint and Silver Crown champion Steve Butler of Kokomo, now retired from active racing, talked with me about racing cars on pavement and about Winchester Speedway in particular. "Winchester is the most difficult track and produces the highest amounts of G-force in the corners," said Butler, who holds the one-lap qualifying and 30-lap records at Winchester Speedway. "There is one good smooth line around the track and anytime you are forced to get out of that line, like when you want to pass another car, then there are a lot of holes and rough spots. They really need to resurface the track." Kokomo's Tony Elliott, another USAC veteran of midget, sprint and Silver Crown events explained to me that Winchester Speedway is also his least favorite of the pavement tracks. "The track is rough and it is fast," said Elliott. "Most other pavement tracks are smoother and I have always had the most trouble at Winchester. I think that maybe in the back of my mind that I drive a little more careful there. The track would be much better if the rough spots were repaired." Danville's Kevin Thomas, one of the most successful drivers at the Kokomo Speedway over the past two seasons, has picked up a sponsorship from Valvoline and the Hazen/Walker racing team and is driving USAC pavement events for the first time this season. With limited time on the high banks at Winchester, Thomas does not see the track as being any more dangerous than the paved surface at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Thomas' view may change with time or Winchester may never bother the Danville native. Thomas offered some interesting views about, racing on pavement as opposed to dirt tracks. "On pavement tracks the margin for error is much' smaller than when you race on dirt," .said Thomas. "If you get into a corner wrong on dirt, there is sometimes a good chance you can correct, but if you make the same mistake on pavement, the consequences can be severe." Elliott and Butler both agreed with Thomas' comments about having to drive much smoother and more precise on paved surfaces. Elliott, however, did not Penskes back on it at Detroit GP DETROIT (AP) — Three of the top four qualifying laps Friday for the ITT Automotive Detroit Grand Prix were turned in the Penske racing team, which continues to dominate Indy-car racing. Emerson Fittipaldi turned in the fastest lap, pushing his Penske Ilmor Iridy V8 around the 2.1- mile, 14-turn course on Belle Isle at an average speed of 106.261 mph. Teammate Paul Tracy was second at 105.845; Nigel Mansell, in a Lola-Ford Cosworth XB, was third at 105.823 and Al Unser Jr., the other Penske driver, was fourth at 105.665. If nobody tops his speed on Saturday, Fittipaldi will be on the pole for the first time this season. "I'm very happy with the car," said Fittipaldi, who won Detroit races in 1989 and 1991, before the race moved from downtown streets to the island in the Detroit River. "I love the Detroit Grand Prix. You have to work the fast part of the course and in the corners. That's the key, to have a nice compromise with the car." . Last year, Tracy turned in the fastest time during provisional qualifying, but lost.it to Mansell each -week seems to be which Penske car will win. Since Michael Andretti made his successful return from Formula One with a season-opening victory in Australia, it has been all Penske. Tracy won the pole, and Fittipaldi the race at Phoenix. Tracy again won the pole and Unser the race at Long Beach. Unser won from the pole at Indianapolis. Last Sunday, at the Milwaukee Mile, Raul Boesel broke the Penske domination by winning the pole. But Unser led Fittipaldi and Tracy across the finish line in a convincing sweep of the 200- mile race. That left Unser with a commanding 79-54 lead over Fittipaldi going into Sunday's race, the sixth of 16 this season. "There's only three-tenths of a second between the three of us," Mansell said. "I hope there's a. little more in the car. But, at least I'm running with the big boys. We lost a little bit because the neat made the track a bit slick. " Friday's run was made under clear skies with temperatures in the low 80's. The same was forecast for Saturday, with a possibility of thundershowers. It has been a frustrating season for Mansell, who won the championship as a rookie last year. Emerson Fittipaldi on Saturday. Danny Sullivan, who started 10th, won the 1993 race. But it will take a major effort to keep one of the Penske cars out of the victory circle this time. Since the first race, which they somehow let slip away, Roger Penske's trio of drivers has so dominated the PPG IndyCar World Series that the big question NOKIA LX12 Transportable Cellular Phone $ 29 Limited Time Offer . Uniden 4600 $ Hand Held Phone 69 Hurry! Offer ends June 11,1994 THE CELLULAR CONNECTION 814 S. Reed Rd. (U.S. 31) 456-3131 (Across from>the Waffle House) Tru-Built Garage Builders ByTru-Built Ask About Our 8.9% Fixed Rates Now Available. No Money Down- Bank Financing Available Summer Special Pricing 24x24 DELUXE 'Not Just The Name, But The Way We Build' $675O or $88.82 mo. 24x3O DELUXE...$775O or $1O1.98 mo. 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Butler added that when Indy cars wreck, the car is demolished and the driver survives, but when a sprint car wrecks at high speeds, often the unfortunate reverse situation takes place. The sprint cars raced on pavement are not actual- • ly built from scratch to accommodate safety on tracks at high speeds, but are more or less modified dirt sprinters set up within USAC guidelines and rules. Stanley's death marked the fourth fatality associated with open-wheeled racing on pavement since 1990. Rich Vogler, Danny Milburn, and Billy Vuckovich III were also killed while racing midgets and sprints on paved surfaces. Former World of Outlaws star Doug Wolfgang was also critically injured while competing on a pavement track. I enjoy watching racing on both dirt and pavement. Maybe high speed open-wheeled racing on pavement is more dangerous than dirt. Maybe cars will start being designed to be safe at high speeds on pavement. Maybe Winchester will resurface the track in the near future. Maybe none of the above are true or will ever happen. One thing that is certain is that Robbie Stanley was a great champion and if anything can be done to help to avoid another fatal accident, I think it is the responsibility of all those involved in the sport to move in that direction. (Davis is the Tribune's auto racing writer and can be contacted at the newspaper office.) TRADE IN SPECIAL j^vAxU^^ '75 for every old window traded in l--Uvs^>/-*/ 5 windows - $ 375 10 windows- S 750 15 windows - $ 1,125 Prior orders excluded Expires 6-15-94 Interest No Payments Till Jan. 1,1995!' A True Ail-American. Simplicity is proof that high-quality, high-performance products are made in the U.S.A. Port Washington. Wisconsin, has been the home of Simplicity products for over 70 years. In fact, the people that make the machines are the very people who own the company, so you know your lawn and garden equipment will be built proudly and with time-honored American craftsmanship. 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